Double, Diddle, or Drag?

Posted on May 12, 2024

 double diddle drag summary

When I wrote about drum rolls at the start of the year, I brought up the enduring confusion regarding what “diddle” is supposed to mean on the drums. Case in point: I remember watching a video years ago about book reports, made by Ryan Wold of the old SnareScience site. 

Sorry, but I won’t be linking to the website — SnareScience has fallen into disrepair and I’m honestly not sure it’s safe to visit anymore. Thankfully the mantle has basically between taken by other communities such as r/DrumlineSheets. It’s still a shame, and I do wonder whatever happened to Ryan…

Anyway, this is the video:

The part that made me turn my head a bit comes at the 1:50 mark when Ryan describes a spin on the flam drag as “playing a diddle on the first partial.”

…A flam drag with a diddle on the first partial?

Surely he meant a flam drag the drag on the first partial. I mean, it’s called that flam drag, not the flam diddle… right?

Okay then, let’s try to clear some of this up.

Double Stroke

A double stroke is pretty straightforward, and I tend to use “double” in lieu of diddle or drag when talking about anything played as RR or LL. It’s the least informative term, but because it’s so broad it’s at least always correct whenever I’m referring to a stroke played as RR or LL.

Diddle

Now, I had always thought that “diddle” was a double that’s specifically the same subdivision as the notes around it. 

Why do I think that? Easy — just think of the paradiddle:

According to the logic of some other drummers, these would be paradiddles:

Which is clearly not the case.

Still, this seems to be a bit controversial; I found an article from about eight years ago explaining that a diddle is a “double–timed double”, while confusingly adding “paradiddles are a combination of singles and doubles, not diddles.” The author makes the case that the paradidle is just different.

I don’t follow that at all. Again… it’s in the name!

It’s tough to track the history of the word “diddle” — the Ashworth manual from 1812 is the oldest in my collection, and it has paradiddles, albeit notated very oddly:

In this form, it almost takes on a five–note pattern, but with how archaic these texts are, I’m unsure of the exact interpretation. The Army Drum and Fife Book from 1861 is the first manual I have that has the paradiddle in a more recognizable form (although seemingly with an extra accent):

None of my old manuals define “diddle.” The closest I can get is Howe’s Fife and Drum Instructor from 1862, which explains that the paradiddle (referred to in the text as a padadiddle) “is performed by striking one hard stroke with the right hand, for pad, one with the left, for a, and two quick light stroke with the right, for diddle.” The book writes the paradiddle as even notes, again with two accents:

So I don’t know when this paradigm shift occurred wherein “diddle” began to mean “fast double” while ignoring the terminology used for paradiddle. I suspect drum corps is to blame since I most often see drum corps players using diddle in this manner. It probably doesn’t help that drumset players such as myself just use “double” instead.

Drag

Most of the time, when I see someone say diddle, they probably mean drag. But drag is a confusing term, and when many drummers hear “drag”, they probably think of grace notes, perhaps even played buzzed as in the orchestral style.

I think the problem is that we don’t have a way of differentiating between these two counting and notation approaches:

At the right tempo, these two lines would sound extremely similar in a rudimental context (if not identical), but they are still different — as a metered stroke, the tremolo slashes would slow down with tempo, while grace notes are always played as close in time to the primary note as possible. 

The PAS rudiment list doesn’t help, which writes most of the drag licks with grace notes. Nevertheless, tremolo slashes are a totally valid way to notate drags, evinced by the way the flam drag and dragadiddle are written. Again, is the flam drag supposed to be the flam diddle? Is the dragadiddle supposed to be the diddleadiddle? 

Conclusion

Okie dokes — wrapping this up, here are my preferred definitions:

  • Double: two notes in a row played on the same hand. Easy enough.
  • Diddle: a double stroke played at the prevailing subdivision, in the context of changing stickings hand to hand.
  • Drag (rudimental): a fast double played around slower notes, meant as an embellishment.
  • Double Stroke Roll: two or more sets of fast doubles played one after another.

There you have it. I will be taking no questions!

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